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Meta-analysis suggests differing indirect effects of viral, bacterial, and fungal plant pathogens on the natural enemies of insect herbivores

Srisakrapikoop, U., Pirie, T. J. and Fellowes, M. D. E. ORCID: (2020) Meta-analysis suggests differing indirect effects of viral, bacterial, and fungal plant pathogens on the natural enemies of insect herbivores. Insects, 11 (11). 765. ISSN 2075-4450

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3390/insects11110765


Indirect effects are ubiquitous in nature, and have received much attention in terrestrial plant–insect herbivore–enemy systems. In such tritrophic systems, changes in plant quality can have consequential effects on the behavior and abundance of insect predators and parasitoids. Plant quality as perceived by insect herbivores may vary for a range of reasons, including because of infection by plant pathogens. However, plant diseases vary in their origin (viral, bacterial or fungal) and as a result may have differing effects on plant physiology. To investigate if the main groups of plant pathogens differ in their indirect effects on higher trophic levels, we performed a meta-analysis using 216 measured responses from 29 primary studies. There was no overall effect of plant pathogens on natural enemy traits as differences between pathogen types masked their effects. Infection by fungal plant pathogens showed indirect negative effects on the performance and preference of natural enemies via both chewing and piercing-sucking insect herbivore feeding guilds. Infection by bacterial plant pathogens had a positive effect on the natural enemies (parasitoids) of chewing herbivores. Infection by viral plant pathogens showed no clear effect, although parasitoid preference may be positively affected by their presence. It is important to note that given the limited volume of studies to date on such systems, this work should be considered exploratory. Plant pathogens are very common in nature, and tritrophic systems provide an elegant means to examine the consequences of indirect interactions in ecology. We suggest that further studies examining how plant pathogens affect higher trophic levels would be of considerable value.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:93805


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